Le Clézio began writing at the age of eight during a month-long voyage to Nigeria, where he and his family would eventually settle. His ability was swiftly recognized after he was first published: at the age of 23, his first novel Le Proces-Verbal (The Interrogation, 1963) earned him the Prix Renaudot. At least thirty six of his books, including short stories, novels and essays, have been published since his debut novel, rendering him one of France’s greatest contemporary literary figures.
From 1963 to 1977, Le Clézio explored themes of language, insanity and writing. His writing style was characterised by experimentation and innovation in form. In the mid-1970s, though – when he started travelling extensively – his method altered remarkably, as it became informed by more traditional narrative structures. His style grew increasingly more sober, and the artfulness of his work lay in the simplicity of the language. He used popular themes such as travelling, adolescence, and childhood that attracted a greater audience.
The apotheosis of Le Clézio’s critical acclaim culminated in his being awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy described Le Clézio as being an ‘author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization’.